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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS Course History - 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational

A soggy West Coast Swing gave way to the newly-named Cognizant Classic, which was also impacted by inclement weather -- apparently unbeknownst to the PGA Tour powers that be -- during its final round. As of this writing, Erik Van Rooyen clings to a slim lead thanks to a blistering final-round performance that included an eye-popping front-nine 28.

While the outcome of the Cognizant remains in doubt, there are some certainties that we can take away from the event formerly known as the Honda Classic. Chiefly, scoring conditions have been made much more player-friendly on the once-brutal PGA National layout. Thankfully, those of you who miss the good old days of hard golf courses should be in for a treat this week at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, the longtime host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA DFS content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!

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2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational

Even though Arnold Palmer passed away nearly a decade ago, the event that bears his name and that's held at his beloved Bay Hill Club & Lodge has continued to thrive, often drawing one of the best non-major fields of the year.

That's again the case for the 2024 edition. The API is undoubtedly helped by its standing as a "Signature Event," which means the best golfers on the PGA Tour will be teeing it up in Orlando. Though this week's tournament does feature a limited field of elite players, like the Genesis Invitational, we will still see a 36-hole cut (Top-50 and ties play the weekend) in effect at Bay Hill.

Surprise 2023 champion Kurt Kitayama will have a monumental task trying to defend his API title this week, as this field is made up of wall-to-wall studs. Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Viktor Hovland highlight the superstars that will be in attendance with Tony Finau being the only eligible player who decided to skip this event.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!


The Course: Bay Hill Club & Lodge

Par 72 - 7,466 Yards, Greens: Bermuda, Designed By: Dick Wilson (Arnold Palmer Renovations)

Arnold Palmer fell in love with this course over 50 years ago and it still holds up in the modern era. Like lots of courses we see during the Florida Swing, water and sand are prominent at Bay Hill. It's long at just over 7,400 yards, with some tee shots requiring lay-ups and some of the schedule's most penal rough guarding the fairways.

While distance is certainly a plus when it comes to navigating a course of this length, Bay Hill at its core is a second-shot golf course and those approaches often require longer irons than we normally see on the PGA Tour schedule. One of the reasons Tiger Woods dominated at Bay Hill throughout the years is his phenomenal iron game from 200-plus yards out. We usually see this tournament play as one of the 10 most difficult courses on the Tour schedule. While it's hard, it is still possible for golfers to go low here.

Because of the layout's difficulty, as well as the often windy conditions, we'll want to zero in on golfers who can scramble and avoid bogeys. Due to that fact, I'll be giving weight to a player's track record in major championships and on difficult golf courses. We can also sprinkle in some consideration to putting performance on fast Bermuda greens, as we can expect Bay Hill's putting surfaces to once again be firm and slippery.


Recent API Winners & Scoring Info

  • 2023: Kurt Kitayama: (-9)
  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler (-5)
  • 2021: Bryson DeChambeau (-11)
  • 2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-4)
  • 2019: Francesco Molinari (-12)


The Horse

Rory McIlroy

Despite kicking off 2024 with a T2-Win start in the Dubai Swing, it feels as though McIlroy heads to Bay Hill stuck in neutral. His U.S. starts this year have resulted in underwhelming results and middling statistics -- although he looked sharper from T2G at the Cognizant.

The early-year struggles are nothing new for Rory, a player who traditionally starts his calendar year with international competition and eases into the PGA Tour grind. Throughout his illustrious career, he's never won in the U.S. in January or February. However, he always seems to have the rust sufficiently knocked off by the time he arrives at Bay Hill and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy has been downright dominant in the API, winning the prestigious event in 2018 and being squarely in the mix on multiple other occasions. He's never finished worse than T27 in nine career API starts and has bagged five top-10 finishes in addition to the '18 victory. While his start to 2024 has been uninspiring, don't let that distract you from the gear that he's routinely been able to find in this event.


The Ponies

Scottie Scheffler

SPOILER ALERT: Scottie Scheffler has consistently passed the stiff T2G test of this Bay Hill layout, but often struggled on the greens. Hard to believe, I know, but the generationally talented Texan's modus operandi of T2G dominance and putting pitfalls is a common thread that runs from Tour stop to Tour stop.

Across his three career API starts, Scheffler did gain strokes putting in one outing, which resulted in a 2022 win in tough scoring conditions. While it feels like an oversimplification to say that if he finds any sort of mojo on Bay Hill's Bermuda greens he'll likely win this tournament, that's almost where we are with Scheffler every week, no matter the course or the competition.

He unsurprisingly leads this week's elite field in countless statistical metrics, including SG: T2G & APP, while ranking second to only Rory McIlroy in SG: OTT. Put simply there's no more complete ball striker in the world at the moment and Scheffler's shown an affinity for this layout. We can expect him to be firmly in the mix this week, with his chances of winning coming down to how cooperative the putter is, as it so often does with the world's current top-rated player.


Jordan Spieth

The often-erratic Spieth has been anything but at Bay Hill. The Texan curiously never had this event on his annual schedule, but a T4 result in his 2021 debut indicated Bay Hill might be a good fit with another T4 last year confirming that notion.

The first two months of 2024 have been a typical roller coaster ride for Spieth. He led the field in putting at The Sentry en route to a solo third, but couldn't putt it into the ocean at a Pebble Beach course where he usually dominates. The flatstick got hot again for a T6 in Phoenix before a DQ for signing an incorrect scorecard at the Genesis following an opening round 66. Whew...being a Spieth fan is exhausting.

Maybe he can settle in this week at Bay Hill, a layout where everything has come together for him in his two prior API appearances. Spieth has gained an eye-popping 15.5 combined strokes T2G across his two API starts, while also finding success on the greens (+4.1 combined SG: Putting).

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Matt Fitzpatrick

The Englishman has felt right at home in the difficult -- and often blustery -- conditions at Bay Hill. As evidenced by his 2022 U.S. Open triumph at Brookline, Fitzpatrick often plays his best golf in the toughest environments. That maxim has certainly held true in the API, an event in which a runner-up result in 2019 kickstarted a run of four consecutive top-10 finishes.

Despite a win at Harbour Town last year, his 2023 results were probably disappointing after what was considered a breakout '22 campaign. His distance gains off the tee have been well documented, but Fitz has struggled to find consistently high-level iron play over the past year.

That's remained the case to open 2024, as he'd lost strokes on Approach in three consecutive starts heading into last week's Cognizant Classic, where he was again just middle of the pack in Approach numbers. Perhaps he can rediscover that facet of his game this week at Bay Hill, a place where he's gained a combined 2.9 strokes on Approach since 2019.


Keegan Bradley

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a career renaissance in recent years, winning twice since 2022. Bradley nearly added to that total with a runner-up finish at the Sony Open in his second start of 2024. In true Keegan fashion, it has been a bumpy road in his subsequent starts this year, as he sandwiched a T11 at Pebble Beach between uninspiring outings at Phoenix and Riviera.

The API provides a nice spot to steady the ship - if there is such a thing for the player that invented the "Full Keegan". Since missing the cut in his 2011 API debut, Bradley has gone on to play 11 consecutive weekends at Bay Hill while carding four top-10 finishes. His ability to thrive with long-iron shots - 11th in this week's field in Proximity from 200+ yards - always pays big dividends on this lengthy layout. Perhaps most encouragingly, Bradley's notorious putting struggles often subside at Bay Hill, as he's actually gained strokes putting on average at the API over the last five years.


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